Major challenges in persuading homeowners to install heat pumps, government admits | News

Heat pumps could cost homeowners as much as £ 35,000 per person, create noise that violates legal limits, and increase fuel bills, the government has admitted.

The eco-friendly heating systems that absorb heat from the surrounding area are at the core of the government’s plans to make homes more energy efficient to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it faced a number of challenges in convincing homeowners to install the equipment and acknowledged that it was “unsure” what the “optimal solution” would be. be.

At an online event for the industry on the topic last month, BEIS outlined the barriers to meeting its goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps each year in the 24.5 million households that need them by 2028.

The installation takes an average of 2.5 days, but can take “several weeks” as some customers require a new power connection or a fuse upgrade by the distribution network operator, and radiators and pipes may also need to be replaced.

It is said that air source heat pumps, which generate heat from the air, can make noises that violate zoning codes if they are too close to a neighbor’s window, which could be difficult to avoid in many buildings.

And it is said that many homes will not have enough space for the kit, which includes either an outdoor unit or a floor pan, additional piping, a control unit, a hot water tank and a buffer tank.

Aesthetics is another issue. One in 16 “green early adopters” is dissatisfied with the appearance of the heat pumps after installation.

BEIS said that cost is also a barrier to widespread adoption. Air source heat pumps cost between £ 7,000 and £ 14,000, while geothermal heat pumps, which draw heat from holes drilled in the ground, cost between £ 15,000 and £ 35,000, with installation prices being driven further by the limited number of trained installers.

There are currently around 3,000 to 4,000 heat pump installers in the UK compared to more than 130,000 gas boiler installers, but BEIS acknowledged that “installation quality and consistency” problems exist even for those trained in heat pump installation .

If the systems were poorly installed or installed in buildings with high heat losses, they could increase fuel costs.

Laura Bishop, director of renewable energy engineering firm Infinitas Design and chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA), said the government has not given the heat pump industry any clarity on how to incentivize adoption.

Admitting that many homeowners cannot afford heat pumps at current prices, she said, “This is a problem because what we need is the amount to bring the price down, but we don’t have any commitments from the government yet .

“If the costs don’t go down because we haven’t been promised the amount, we’ll be here with the same prices in five years.”

She said she expected the government’s heat and construction strategy announced over the next few weeks to contain “controversial issues”.

“It will be a very delicate policy. On the one hand, the government has very strict and very ambitious net-zero targets, but on the other hand, they have to weigh how that affects the real people. “

However, she added that the government will never achieve its net zero targets unless it takes “drastic” action.

The GSHPA and the two other professional associations of heat pump manufacturers, the Heat Pump Association and the Heat Pump Association, are currently developing guidelines for consumers on how heat pumps work and possible plans for reducing costs.

Ministers have already announced that gas boilers will be banned in new buildings in 2025, and last week reported that they were discussing a deadline for installing all traditional gas boilers in 2035.

What BEIS says

“Heat pumps will play a crucial role in decarbonizing the heating of our homes and buildings and will help eliminate our contribution to climate change. We will achieve our goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps annually by 2028 through targeted regulation, cooperation with industry and financial support, all of which will be defined in our upcoming heating and building strategy.

“The heating and buildings strategy will be published in due course and will include targeted regulatory, market-based and public investment measures to incentivize low-carbon heating systems that will help reduce costs.”

The challenges:

    • To reduce consumer costs, the government has provided financial support through programs such as the domestic renewable heating incentive
    • From April 2022, the Clean Heat Grant will support households with the purchase of heat pumps
    • We have developed a package of guidelines to increase the heat pump market to 600,000. Evidence from market research and industry engagement suggests that the mass deployment of heat pumps in the UK could result in significant reductions in up-front costs for household-size systems due to economies of scale and other efficiencies
    • As announced in the December 2020 Energy White Paper, we will shortly publish a call for evidence on affordability and fairness in the energy market
      • It examines how future energy costs can be distributed fairly for all consumers and how incentives can be created for the use of low-cost, low-carbon technologies
      • This includes checking the cost of gas and electricity bills and making sure they are not a major obstacle to the use of low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps
    • A well thought-out heat pump system should not be dependent on additional heat sources and with standard-compliant installation and in a well-insulated house, the operating costs should be comparable to those of a gas or oil boiler. It is true that heat pumps generally have higher up-front costs than gas or oil-fired boilers, but financial support is available to offset these costs
    • At the beginning of 2021, the government discussed the introduction of the heat pump installation standard MIS 3005 into the building regulations in order to guarantee the quality of heat pump installations
  • UK only 3k to 4k heat pump installers
    • The government is working closely with industry to ensure that appropriate quality training is available for both newcomers to the industry and existing heating installers who are inexperienced with heat pumps
    • There are around 130,000 heating installers in the UK who would need around a week of training to qualify to install heat pumps
  • Generate noise that exceeds the legal limits
    • Problems related to noise emissions from air source heat pumps are very rare and the UK has some of the strictest noise standards for heat pump systems in Europe
    • Modern, efficient heat pumps are quiet and generally not louder than the average ambient noise
    • In order to be approved within the scope of permissible development, each heat pump must be installed in accordance with the MCS-020 planning standard for the microgeneration certification system, which specifies that the noise level for an air source heat pump is 42 decibels or less at one meter from any habitable space must be a neighboring property. These standards are constantly being reviewed to ensure that they continue to be appropriate for their purpose
  • Heating up slower than gas boiler
    • Satisfaction with heat pumps installed as part of the renewable heating incentive scheme is extremely high, with most consumers being satisfied with the thermal comfort provided by the technology
  • Many houses have no space for it
    • The responses to our 2018 call for evidence showed that electrification of heat is the only net zero path that has been proven to work in households without a gas network – reinforced by the results of the BEIS modeling, which shows that 80% of off-grid Houses heated by fossil fuels have sufficient energy efficiency and safety limits to accommodate a heat pump
    • We understand that some homes may not be suitable for a low temperature heat pump, alternative low carbon solutions include high temperature heat pumps, solid biomass systems and low carbon heating networks
    • The government is currently demonstrating the suitability of heat pumps in a number of different types of housing as part of the £ 14.6 million demonstration project to electrify heat. The project also supports the commercialization of quieter and more efficient heat pumps – including higher temperature models – to expand the suitability of heat pumps in even more households

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